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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

23: What Surprised Me About Moving To Austin

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

Bat-themed Austin Sign outside Mozart Coffee
Bat-themed Austin Sign outside Mozart Coffee

Howdy! Before I moved to Austin, I lived in Albany NY for years, spent a summer in Europe, and a few months in Philly. While I really like Austin now that we have a car, in the beginning, I struggled here. Austin is what's going to make me learn how to drive.

Drivers hate pedestrians and cyclists. Folks used to honk/cat call/scream at me when I was walking to work. I planned to buy a bike but won't after all the stories I've heard of cyclists having junk pelted at them (scroll r/Austin for cyclist woes). Using buses to get around isn't practical or as safe as I was used to up north. Seems like outside of the city center, mostly very unwell people resort to public transport. We bought a car quickly after moving here, but during my brief season of relying on the buses, I had a guy try to wipe his bloody hands on me, had a guy try to kiss my hand, had a woman scream at me because the bus driver had the audacity to talk to me while driving, and my 11min uber route to work (because no buses could get me to work at 6:30am) ranged between 1-3hrs to get home. This city was not built for pedestrians. Overpasses don't have sidewalks and my route to some job interviews involved hiking under bridges (through homeless camps) and through ditches/fields of tall grass. One of my (then) coworkers uses a wheelchair and was hit by a car, crossing the street to get to a bus stop to get to work. She was fine, if shaken, but said it wasn't even the first time that happened. The street she lives on has no sidewalks. That's insane to me.

Out of their cars, everyone seems super friendly. Neighbors wave and say hi. Except once you get to talking and they find out you just moved here. Then even otherwise friendly people go off about how everyone moving here is ruining Austin. My first year here, I lost count of how many times I heard that rant. Every new co-worker and neighbor had the same spiel, unless they were from out-of-town too. I get it. We probably aren't staying due to sky-rocketing costs (when we moved into our apartment 2 years ago, it went for $1,100. Now, it goes for $1,700. They won't raise our rent by that insane amount, but for new folks coming in, that’s what they’re charging for our 908 sq ft apartment) but we came here to escape a high crime neighborhood and jobs we hated.

People here are very casual about having had DWIs/DUIs. In NY, if you've had a DWI/DUI, you lie about it. It's a dark secret. Here, when my fiance and I worked food service, every other coworker seemed to have a breathalyzer in their car and they weren't shy about it. We joke that Austin is the opposite of rehab.

I've also noticed smoking cigarettes is more common here than up north. In Albany NY, I had friends who smoked maybe a cigarette or two at a party while being social. Of all of my college friends, I can think of two cigarette smokers, one casual, one habitual. In Austin? Seems most millennials and older folks smoke. More than half the folks at the dog park smoke. Can’t say I’ve hung out with many Zoomers, so I don’t know how they trend.

So there aren’t many negatives, just those I face, I can rant about all day. As for the positive surprises? I don’t have as much to say because, after a great deal of research before choosing to move here, I expected good things of Austin, and those expectations were largely met.

The food trucks are great, which was not true in upstate NY (Sorry Tulip Festers!). My fiancé was shocked by how liberal Austin is. He came here expecting cowboys hats and rodeos. People really like the bats, as in, the bats are a tourist attraction and there is a bat statue by the bat bridge. It rains more than I expected, which I like. Texas may be a desert but Austin is not. We live along the greenbelt which is a wooded area in the hill country.

Galleries are pretty approachable. I heard really intimidating stories in NY about boards of directors and whatnot belittling submitting artists so generally only showed art at restaurants. Here though, the gallery managers I've interacted with are really down to earth.

Everybody and their mother has a dog here and they bring them everywhere. I love dogs so for me and mine, this generally sparks joy. Unfortunately, entitled assholes refuse to pick up after their pets, and bring aggressive dogs into dog parks, and while I imagine those are issues everywhere, due to the volume of dogs here, those issues are amplified.

Also, this is less about Austin than it is about weed but I went to Eeyore's birthday party, which is a super fun festival in a park, in 2019. Nobody could come with me so I bused there with my watercolor set and painted all day. The weed, I don't know, fumes? Smoke? Was so overpowering I was second hand high that whole day. Before then, I thought being second-hand high was a myth. Nope. I was out of it, and I'm sure, the dehydration didn't help. Regardless, I highly recommend hitting up Eeyore's birthday party if you're ever in the area for it. Just, if you react poorly to weed (like me), maybe bring a mask. Thanks to Covid, they're all the rage now. may as well. :)

Austin is fun, both to visit and to live, and while it's expensive for the south, it's very affordable compared to Long Island NY, and from what I hear, California. That said, we're planning to move to San Antonio just due to the increasing cost of rent. I really hope the public transport is better there.

Thanks for stopping by! I put out a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!

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